05/30/2006 12:00AM

Three intriguing allowances

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Three features may not necessarily be better than one, but that's what Churchill Downs horseplayers have awaiting them Thursday. Three allowance races wind down the nine-race program, with a pair of second-level $58,000 sprints sandwiching a $54,000 first-level turf route.

The central issue in the seventh race, a six-furlong race for fillies and mares, seems to be whether a Todd Pletcher-trained filly named can rebound off a 25-length drubbing at Keeneland and rediscover the form that made her a stakes winner at this same time last year. Rafael Bejarano has the mount on Talented, a 4-year-old Fusaichi Pegasus filly who figures as a gate-to-wire threat assuming she brings her "A" game.

have both won first-level sprints at this meet and loom the major challengers to Talented in a field of seven.

In the eighth race, restricted to 3-year-old fillies, Fantastic Shirl will be trying to redeem herself following a narrow recent defeat as the 9-5 favorite in a nearly identical spot.

Other logical contenders in the eighth include Brilliant Star, a Dallas Stewart-trained filly who was a creditable fourth in a recent turf sprint stakes, the Open Mind; Celsiana, a Bobby Frankel-trained filly who gets Bejarano when trying the grass for the first time; and Purple, a daughter of Royal Academy who has yet to race on turf but certainly has the pedigree to improve substantially on the surface.

The ninth race, for 3-year-olds and upward at six furlongs, drew a tough field of eight, with several already having considerable experience in stakes, most notably Social Probation, who was second in the Amsterdam and King's Bishop last summer at Saratoga.

Besides Social Probation, the Thursday finale also will be contested by such capable runners as Road Show, who gets Bejarano when returning from a six-month-plus layoff, and British Attitude, who was a solid third behind Yes Yes Yes in the race that directly followed the May 6 Kentucky Derby.